By Dave Hogg
DETROIT (AP) — Aaron Sanchez pitched six strong innings for his first win of the season as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Detroit Tigers 7-2 on Friday night.
Steve Pearce and Jose Bautista homered for the Blue Jays, who won the first game of a 10-day, 10-game road trip.
Sanchez (1-2) allowed one unearned run, seven hits and two walks to win for the first time since beating the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 2. He struck out four.
Justin Verlander (5-7) only allowed three hits, but needed 114 pitches to get through 5 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs, two earned, while walking three and striking out five.
The Tigers had runners at second and third in the second inning and at the corners in the third, but Sanchez was able to escape both times without damage.
Pearce broke the scoreless tie in the fifth, hitting Verlander’s 2-0 fastball over the Tigers’ bullpen in left. Kevin Pillar followed with a line drive down the right-field line that J.D. Martinez dropped for a two-base error.
Pillar took third on Darwin Barney’s groundout and scored on Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly.
The Tigers put runners on the corners with no outs in the bottom of the inning, and Alex Avila lined sharply to third base. Josh Donaldson threw to first, trying to double off Alex Presley, but the throw got away from Justin Smoak, allowing Jose Iglesias to make it 2-1.
Verlander left with two on and one out in the sixth, with Shane Greene coming out of the bullpen. Pearce’s infield single loaded the bases with two outs, and Pillar fouled off three two-strike pitches before walking to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
Bautista led off the seventh with a homer off Warwick Saupold to make it 4-1.
Blaine Hardy walked three batters in the eighth, including Russell Martin with the bases loaded, giving Toronto a four-run lead. Josh Donaldson followed with a two-run single to put the Blue Jays ahead 7-1.
Andrew Romine homered for the Tigers in the ninth.
Blue Jays: RHP Joe Smith (shoulder) was scheduled to pitch a final rehab game for Triple-A Buffalo. Barring a setback, he will rejoin the Blue Jays in Detroit this weekend.
Tigers: 2B Ian Kinsler missed the game with flu-like symptoms. Romine replaced him in the field, with Presley taking over as the leadoff hitter. Kinsler’s status for Saturday is unknown.
A large part of the outfield grass, stretching from one outfield gap to the other, was dead or dying after a Metallica concert earlier this week. The area will have new sod put down next week while the Tigers are on a road trip.
Jays: LHP Francisco Liriano (5-4, 5.56 ERA) will start Saturday in the second game of the weekend series. The 33-year-old is 6-10 with a 5.26 ERA in 27 career appearances against the Tigers, including 20 starts.
Tigers: RHP Michael Fulmer (9-6, 3.19 ERA) will pitch for the first time since representing the Tigers in his first All-Star Game. Fulmer threw six shutout innings against Toronto in his only appearance against them on June 6, 2016.
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